The National Let Their Stirring Sound Ring Out

August 4, 2008 12:55 AM ET

If there was ever a band who didn't fit the festival mold, it's the National. Their songs are late-night meditations on love, loss and regret — not exactly rousing sing-along material. However, that didn't stop a passionate crowd from turning downtrodden tunes like "Baby, We'll Be Fine" (with it's refrain of "I'm so sorry for everything") into unabashed anthem. The group's stirring indie anthems were augmented by a horn section, which gave "Start a War" a little extra gravitas. Frontman Matthew Beringer didn't seem fazed by the venue in the slightest — perhaps opening an arena tour for R.E.M. lent him some swagger — and he managed to whip the crowd into a frenzy while shredding his vocal cords during the set-closing "Mr. November," which he dedicated to Barack Obama.

More Lollapalooza Coverage: Rock 'N' Roll Diary

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Song Stories

“American Girl”

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers | 1976

It turns out that a single with "American" in its title--recorded on the Fourth of July during the nation's Bicentennial, no less--can actually sell better in Britain. Coupled with the Heartbreakers' flair for Byrds jangle and Animals hooks, though, is Tom Petty's native-Florida drawl that keeps this classic grounded at home. Petty dispelled rumors that the song was about a suicidal student, explaining that the inspiration came from when he was 25 and used to salute the highway traffic outside his apartment window. "It sounded like the ocean to me," he recalled. "That was my ocean. My Malibu. Where I heard the waves crash, but it was just the cars going by."

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